We all joke from time to time that our children are nuts. Little people do and say lots of things that adults would consider to be outside of the realm of “normal,” but that are totally par for the course for kids. When my toddler is given a timeout, he climbs to the top of his bed rail and proceeds to remove the decorative star decals from his wall. This is not something that would occur to me to do if someone put me in my room for five minutes, but it is the first thing he does. (Sometimes I wish someone would put me in my room. I might finally get a nap!)
There are, however, certain behaviors that children might exhibit that could be cause for concern. While kids aren’t typically diagnosed as “psychopaths,” they can show signs of anti-social behavior that should be addressed. Such symptoms could indicate that later in life they will show psychopathic and/or criminal behavior.
According to Professor Stephen Scott, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, there are six things to watch for:
1. Superficially charming
The child might seem charming but doesn’t seem to care if he sees other people in distress.
2. They feel no guilt or remorse
Children who feel no remorse are focused on their own selfish needs.
3. Fascinated by certain things
These kids, when given a certain device or technology, might become completely fascinated by it.
4. Short temper
A child might be calm or nice for a short period, but will then become angry quickly if you do something to bother him.
5. Punishment insensitive
Punishments will have little to no effect on such a child since the root problem is biological in nature.
Professor Scott does note, however that “[p]arents can try and reward them in little, small steps, if you do, there is some response to that.”
6. Lack of empathy
“When we scan their brains we find an area called the amygdala, which is where you acknowledge emotions and process them, (and) it’s completely quiet and flat. So they will understand what is going on, but they don’t care.”
Professor Scott notes that anti-social behavior in children tends to be taboo to discuss, but that kids exhibiting such symptoms should not be ignored. If you believe that your child consistently and persistently shows some of the signs above, you might want to consult with mental health services.